It's time to restore British food culture

13 March 2008
It's time to restore British food culture

I was brought up on my mother's shoulder of local lamb on a Sunday. I used to chop the fresh mint from the garden for the sauce and scrape the Jerseys. A treat before lunch was one or two of these smothered in local melted butter. I've never forgotten these experiences - they got me into cooking.

The rise of international travel over the past four decades opened up many gastronomic horizons and identities. Close to home, France, Italy and Spain have worked hard to promote their own cuisines as part of their tourism efforts. In the main they've done it well, traditionally using best local ingredients available.

But for too long we've allowed great British ingredients to take second place to anonymity and imports while we seem to export the best of what we grow and produce. Is this because our best ingredients are appreciated more elsewhere than in our own country?

It's time we took account of what we do best and how this great British island became great and influential, before it's too late. In his book, British Regional Food, Mark Hix identifies dozens of fantastic recipes that can only be British, from stargazy pie in the South-west to Lancashire hotpot and Yorkshire pudding in the North.

This takes no account of other gastronomic joys, including laver bread and fish from Wales and great game and venison from Scotland. All this is supported with the best cheeses in the world and fruits and vegetables to match. But are they so great now? Much of the food on offer has become bland and tasteless.

As the cost of our food rises, let's use this to put it back on the local agenda. Not only can we support our farmers when they desperately need us, but we can contribute to the environment with fewer food miles.

We can restore our British food culture through education. Let's support the Academy's Chefs Adopt a School, which teaches children about where food comes from. Let's get it on the primary curriculum. It's up to everyone to do their bit.

Pan-fried mullet with mussels: returning to traditional British dishes will help to revitalise both regional and national culture and make a positive contribution to the environment by reducing food miles

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